Tell Us Of Your Protagonist

It’s funny — I worked in pen and paper roleplaying games for a long time, and one of the hallmarks of that industry is people coming up to you and telling you about their characters. “I HAVE A LEVEL 14 SPACE JANITOR WITH THE SPECIAL FEAT: DEADLY JAZZ HANDS.” And you nod and smile and say, yes, that’s nice, but you learn to fear those not uncommon moments where someone wants to fix you to a spot and unload their entire character sheet into your brain.

But in fiction, people don’t do that. (Whew.) We’re trained to give a log line, a short elevator pitch (IT’S ALIENS MEETS GOOD WILL HUNTING AS A SPACE JANITOR PLAYS HOST TO A PARASITE NAMED ‘CUPID’ AND HE FINDS LOVE AND…). But really, we still need to be thinking about — and talking about — characters. Character is our entry point into a story. Characters are why we stick around. They’re how we relate. They’re why we give a shit.

So.

Whatever you’re writing right now? Tell us about the protagonist.

Don’t go on too long about it — a paragraph or two, no more — but tell us who they are. What they want. What drives them. What opposes them. Open that character up for discussion and critique. Think about whether or not the character works, or if there’s more you could do — and if there is, ask us. Let’s crowdsource it. COMMAND THE HIVEMIND TO WORK IN YOUR FAVOR.

Or something like that.

Note: if you post about your character, you should endeavor to talk to someone else about their character, too. Quid pro quo, Clarice.

(Extra credit reading: The Zero-Fuckery Quick-Create Guide to Kick-Ass Characters.)

460 comments

  • She was raised as a sensationalized sharp-shooter.

    “14-Year-Old Killer”
    “Father and Daughter at It Again”

    After her father died, she went into hiding only to re-emerge as ‘Shauna Ackerman’, a twenty-six year old administrative assistant with a fiance and child. She tried to live a life to exonerate her past, but was quickly exposed and forced back into a life of automatics and bodies in the company of an ‘island of mis-fit veterans’.

    With her ‘good girl’ cover blown, she’s an immature, hot-headed girl who is really just seeking love and compassion- although you couldn’t tell from how she behaves. She’s brash and acts before thinking and rages at the one person who shows her compassion. She wants to change but of course, doesn’t feel like she deserves redemption. Giving up the way she used to be would mean giving up a chance to feel redeemed in the eyes of her father- the only one she’s ever wanted to make proud. But shedding the fear and opening up would mean open-season on what she knows in the monster inside. And how could anyone really love that?

    Although she is a unique character, she certainly has the ‘dark, brash, brooding’ thing going on, which is usually played by male roles.

    • By sharp shooter do you mean she was a tournament shooter? or an assassin? Just a bit confused as to that point. I’m curious if she liked being a boring but stable person, or if she secretly hated it?

      Sounds interesting though 🙂

    • I LOVE when women get the broody role! I’m a sucker for broody characters, but there are very few women like that for me to crush on.

      The fact that she wants redemption but doesn’t feel she deserves it rings true for me.

  • Casimir Morales is a member of the Interplanetary Bounty Commission and he’s been hunting criminals for a long, long time. Once as sharp as a knife, years of chasing the most wanted men across the solar system have turned him dull. He’s nearing retirement. He’s not as fast on the draw as he once was, his eyes no longer as sharp as in his rookie years. Casimir hasn’t known any other life than taking bad men down, and as far as he’s concerned the day he wakes up and doesn’t have to put on the long coat and pistol holster any longer is the day he might as well close the lid on his coffin.

    He’s a man of the book. No, not that one. The rule book. Never a leader, Casimir is a modern day Lancelot. No good at herding the hearts of men or at the podium of leadership, he instead prefers the quiet solace of success. He accepts bounties as they come up, finds his prey, then claims the bounty — whether dead or alive and keeps his head down. Success, to Casimir, is simply knowing that there’s one less criminal roaming colonized space.

    • Nearing retirement and accepting death when he can no longer hunt. Seems a bit fore shadowy. I can imagine the old man sacrificing himself all ready, but I love the description.

  • Seb Freeman is a teenager from a small town in Kentucky still haunted by the death of his father, who died four years earlier fighting in the Middle East. Seb has an unhealthy obsession with death, particularly the details of how his father had been killed. On Christmas Day, a mysterious phenomenon changes humankind into immortals that hunt to kill the few remaining mortals left in the world, including Seb. He is soon on the run with a small group of other mortals trying to survive and understand this new world filled with immortal angel-like beings. Eventually, Seb and the others are captured by a group of immortals, not to be killed, but to be taken to someone with the ability to transform Seb and the others into immortals. Without given a choice, Seb is faced with the fate of becoming immortal, which both intrigues his obsession with death and terrifies him when he discovers the price for his immortality.

    • Sounds like an interesting character and premise, but I feel like knowing what the price of immortality is would tell me a lot more about the character – what horrifies him? Plus, I’m curious as to whether he’s obsessed with death in a trying-to-learn-about-thing-I’m-terrified-by way, or maybe-I-want-to-be-dead way. I assumed it was the latter at first, but by the end of reading it looks like it might be the former?

  • The protagonist for the book I have in mind for my own books is a very cynical man, he really wishes he could see what is good in the world but he cannot, he is an alcoholic, he is blunt and an asshole, he refuses to be put down,

    He is a smart man, and he refuses to play by anyones rules, due to the theme of my book is Cyber Punk he is a courier, and he is one of the best ones in the market; however because of this he is paranoid. Tell him to meet between x and y street? You can be sure he has trapped the place with C-4/Semtex.

    He is terrible at hand to hand preferring to snipe or use a gun.

    Finallly don’t fuck with children that is his personal button for going hulk on you.

    • He seems like a very interesting and complex character! I like him a lot and all these traits sure make him a great protagonist! I’m in love with him already: he’s good at what he’s doing, but cautious, while still messy with his personality and having a soft spot for kids! Sounds great!
      The subject of the story is intriguing as well. Good luck with your writing!

      • Thanks! you nailed most of the stuff right on, Cyber Punk Genre is not one really meant for The Squeaky clean heroes, those who refuse to even dirty their hands or the White Knight types, if anything they would get killed or become puppets of some other party in five seconds .
        I am attempting to write Him as an anti Hero, he is no saint, but neither is he a monster.

    • Duncan, I feel like I know your character. Perhaps he is a man who was abused as a child and doesn’t have much trust in the world. I wonder what his goal is? What obstacles will he face? Enemies? Lovers or friends?

      • No he was not abused, but he has seen the world he lives in for what it is, a steaming pile of crap, it’s why he spends so much drinking. Yes he has little trust in the world because he is a courier, to be a courier on the setting is to transport Decabytes of hard disks, trusting someone is the same to ask “Hey mind killing me and selling my organs in the nearest market?”

        Regarding obstacles: His latest gig goes down the drain, he was suposed to be transporting some valuable data for a PMC under the government control and he gets ambushed. The kicker is that no one was suposed to know about this, he never spoke of it and from his side there was radio silence and thus he is saved by his employers. His job is now to steal back the hard disks; why? Much to his displeasure he has a collar now, he speaks or fails to retrieve it on time? And he will blow up like fireworks.

        Friends? Few, his best friend and partner in crime is the pilot and mechanic of his B-52 bomber and the guy who mantains his motorcycle, he also is freinds with a man called the dwarf (inspired by Trevannians the Gnome character)

        Lovers? Dead, his girlfriend was also a fellow courier of his company, they worked side to side, elbow to elbow and she was captured by a PMC, her end was not pretty

        Enemies? Loads, the PMC, the government, the rival companies, pretty much he has a price on his head now.

        To get a better idea somewhere between 2030 and 2040 the governments of the world decided to take down the internet after nuclear missile codes were leaked online and used, so there is no way to send information at long distances, thus the importance of couriers was renewed.

  • The main character of my current WIP, ‘Mostly Dead Girls’, is Faye (still haven’t found a good last name).

    Faye’s world is the one where all horror movies happen – everything from revenge-fueled ghosts to masked killers to deal-making demons are getting more common by the day. Faye’s uncle, the Gravedigger, was one of the human killers – basically a horror movie villain, who went after anyone who threatened his younger sisters.

    Faye’s mother has been dead for a few years and Faye has moved in with her father and his new wife Julia. She’s seventeen and has previous connection to a killer, which makes her one of the most at-risk people for either becoming a victim or a villain, and that has a huge bearing on her life. She’s a friendly kid who craves interaction, but most people are afraid to get close to her, and Faye herself isn’t sure whether she’s going to end up on the good or bad side of the fence. She’s fascinated with killers and ghosts and reads about them constantly, and that fascination – paired with her loneliness – puts the plot into motion. Faye realizes that the family’s new house is occupied by a dead girl ghost, and instead of calling the supernatural police or SafeHouse (basically a final girl organization) she starts trying to talk to the girl and befriend her.

    A big part of Faye’s character is that particular teenage thing (or maybe it was just me as a teenager) where she’s trying to figure out who she is and what to do but GOD FORBID she reach out to any sources of authority and support. She feels like she needs to sneak around and do/figure out everything on her own, and the few cases where she’s right just cements her belief across the board. She gets in a lot of trouble and digs herself deeper because the more she messes up the more she wants to handle everything herself.

    • Maure, what is Faye’s main goal? Is it to gain a friend (the girl ghost or another) or is it to figure herself out through self-discovery and natural consequences? Are the authority figures the ones who stand in the way of either or both of these goals?

      • The story’s still in the development stage, so I’m figuring it out – but honestly, befriending Dorita (the ghost girl) is a combination of her two main desires: to not be alone and to figure out where she fits… which could be considered a larger version of the first goal, now that I think of it, because finding where she fits (villain/victim/final girl?) means finding a community. Befriending Dorita gives her more insight into the ‘villain’ side of things through a person who in themselves isn’t particularly bad… if that’s making any sense. Sorry, a lot of this stuff depends on worldbuilding and I don’t want to spend forever outlining that.

        OK, the authority figure thing: most of the adults in her life belong definitively to the Good and Normal side of things, and would not like her befriending a ghost girl. Most of the ghosts in this world are revenge-bent types (think Samara) and even if they’re not killing people are considered ticking time bombs. Faye feels (rightly, in some cases) that the adults around her are already afraid of what she might turn into, so she has to explore her options in secret – if people found out she was drawn to similar stuff as her uncle she’d get pigeonholed as ‘bad’ and wouldn’t have options anymore.

        Oh, and the conflict of keeping Dorita secret is more of a side conflict/complication on the main conflict. I didn’t want to go into the main plot because this was just a character question, but the main plot is that the man who killed Dorita and one other ghost hanging around is coming after Faye next, and she has no proof but stuff she’s learned through talking with ghosts and killers – making it kind of hard to get help. So that issue is major, but not the main plot.
        (Ugh… I hope that was semi-coherent. I’m tired and my brain feels like a wrung sponge right now.)

        • I’m really enjoying your ideas. Do you find writing drains you? Or is your sponge wrung out for other reasons? Depending on scene, writing can feel like an endless therapy session for me.

          • Writing sometimes makes me tired, but in this case it was because I had a surgery appointment coming up and had just finished some paperwork. I’ve got the surgery through with now and I’m recovering. 🙂

        • Hi, Maure! Man, I know what you mean about the wrung sponge! My doctor put me on anti-anxiety meds that took my brain away and I couldn’t–literally couldn’t!–write for a month! Took myself off, that was NOT going to happen to me! But getting them out of my system took a while, and I feel just like that. Hope your surgery wasn’t a major deal and that you’re alright now.

          What is a “final girl?” I don’t do horror movies, is that a genre term that I wouldn’t know without that? But I do read some horror books, and this sounds very intriguing. Finding out where she fits is always an interesting story in and of itself, and knowing that if she makes the wrong choices leaves her without options is always scary. Perhaps she may find a middle ground here, where she is the interface between the “good” and the “bad.” I really like the idea that “Befriending Dorita gives her more insight into the ‘villain’ side of things through a person who in themselves isn’t particularly bad.” There are so many ways that story could play out. I’d love to hear more about this!

    • I like your concept here — both the premise, and how it feeds into the character. I appreciate the tension in Faye, between what she’s expected to be (a hazard, a villain or a victim) and how she sees herself (“a friendly kid who craves interaction”). Also, I love the idea that she’s got a dual identity: she might end up a villain, or a victim, and it would be hard to straddle that line, because those two potentialities would give you very different, contradictory outlooks. If this story delved deep into those types of inner conflicts and contradictions, I would definitely read it.

    • I really like Faye. I was that loner girl quite opposite of her. I was afraid to get along with anyone. I think this book would be inspirational and entertaining. Very different concept and world. I love it.

  • From the WIP that I should be editing instead of writing something new:

    Old junkie assassin with too many enemies who travels between realities takes on a teenage female apprentice. They kill people, get tattoos, and fall in love. He gets killed (see too many enemies) and she goes on a roaring rampage of revenge.

  • Harold Brack is a middle aged, slightly obese man, who picks his nose when being nervous. And he is nervous most of the time, being a coward doesn’t help. When not hiding in storage rooms, or lurking in basements, he actually mops halls and lavatories, changes bulbs from time to time.
    His dubious hobby -his thrill- is to pick locks, on interesting doors: wooden doors, steel doors, doors on safes, car doors. You see, all doors are interesting, when locked. Then he’s messing with things in the apartments. Small things, like putting the remote in the fridge, switching toothpastes with foot creme, shacking every can he finds. Basically he’s being an ass.
    Though he’s never been caught, he has nightmares about being thrown into jail and ending as a finger puppet. A hooded figure named Pain, stalks him and forces Harold (with brute force) to go steal for him. He tries to escape, but Pain seems to read his mind, anticipating his every move.

      • Good question! I haven’t thought that bit through. I don’t see him as an apartment building custodian. When I peak in his life, he mops in museums, libraries, universities, some government buildings…
        On his way home he gets off the bus/metro/train a few stations before his destination and lurks in the shadows, climbs the fire escapes up, or enters randomly apartment buildings. Creepy… I guess he tries to mess with everyone he can mess with. (Insert huge inferiority complex here) But… Why does he bother? Why break in and only changing tiny things? Why staying hidden? Where is the logic in that?
        Family? I think not. He’s not the type for family. He has no girl- or boyfriend, not even a best friend. Is this why he breaks into other people’s apartments? Is he trying to participate in life? through other people’s lives?
        What do you think? Also thanks for the questions! 🙂

    • Whoa. Caught in the story already here. I love the idiosyncrasies that lead Harold to doing what he does. I love the concept of “all doors are interesting, when locked.” That right there is a terrific hook.
      And Pain. Can’t wait to find out who/what Pain is, and why it’s all happening.

      • Thanks Tamara! Pain is a literal pain in the butt, that’s where his name comes from. I haven’t decided what he is (human, or something else), but I know he is greedy, and he smiles a disturbing smile. His eyes glow from time to time, specially in the night, when no one is looking. Besides that he always wears this black hoodie, covering most of his face. Well, I’m not even sure there is a face to begin with… He likes to hoard things. Shiny things… When I think of him, I imagine Indred Cold (from Mothman prophecies).
        How he fits in? An excellent question. I still don’t know.
        Pain sees Harold while he is spying out a place he wants to break in. A foot soldier/burglar comes handy, and Harold has his ways with locks.(guess there’s his talent) He only has to threaten him, and voila! All the goods and money he wants, and no imminent risk…
        Somewhere behind that, there’s a whole different story, some tremors in the fabric of the story. A darker bit of Pain(Death? Sin?) is behind the decision why he uses Harold, why he stalks him. He could be a cardinal sin projection, or Death itself, or something like that, punishing Harold. Or better, he is an actual good guy and wants to scare Harold (the Small Fry) away from burglary. Sheesh – I don’t know.

    • Wow, I totally agree: that’s a terrific setup and one hell of an anti-hero! I would definitely want to read this one!! When I got to “all doors are interesting” I expected Harold to stumble across a very unique door one day, and the story to take a turn into mystery/paranormal horror… Can’t wait to see how Pain figures into the plot! Can I ask what the genre is?

      • Thanks Robin! Genre? Hmmm… Ermm. I can’t decide if the story wants to be funny or deadly. Maybe both. Paranormal sounds good.
        First I wanted him to accidentally free children with monkeyflu (a retrovirus only targeting human pieces of the genome and triggering mutations – oh the potential) to unleash a world wide pandemic… But that wasn’t my blanky to fly with. A pandemic is scary, I give you that, but boring.
        A hooded figure with supposed superpowers is more likely to scare me (and Harold). So Pain showed up.

        • Aw, you know what – I’d go with (psychological) horror!! Harold’s personality – what he does for “fun” – is so sinister, so perverted that it would be a perfect fit for the genre! And I’d be thrilled to find out that Pain is a vengeful spirit/demon/whatever, there to teach Harold a lesson because once he opened ‘the wrong door’…
          Anyway, you got a really original protagonist there, I’m sure it’ll hook agents! Keep going!!

  • “I HAVE A LEVEL 14 SPACE JANITOR WITH THE SPECIAL FEAT: DEADLY JAZZ HANDS.”

    I now want to see this character sheet.

  • My protag is 28 yr old Shaolin Li. Half African-American, half Chinese, her parents were killed when she was a baby and she was found by a monk from the Shaolin Temple in China. She was raised in the Shaolin Orphanage until the age of 4, then raised in the temple by the monk who found her, until she was sent to the States to live with the monk’s brother at the age 12. Fast forward several years and Shao’s now a former army EOD (Explosives Ordinance Disposal) Specialist trying to adjust to civilian life two years after being medically discharged. While on the job as a concierge in the business lounge of a downtown Phoenix hotel, Shao finds out a Russian businessman who frequents the hotel is involved in a child sex trafficking ring…and he may be responsible for the disappearance of a young Chinese girl from her old orphanage. In the process, she receives assistance from an unlikely source in the form of Remy: an artist and male stripper who, on the side, happens to work for an organization who runs missions to rescue children from human traffickers. From the time she was 4, Shao was trained to protect and her position in the army reinforced that. Due to her upbringing and what she did in the army–not to mention the after effects–she doesn’t feel worthy of love. Remy hopes to change her mind.

    This character lived in my dreams (which how some of my characters come to me) for nearly a year and I figured it was time to write her story. This first novel is one in a series of 6 that I plan to write about a group of male strippers secretly working for an organization that rescues children from human traffickers. The series was inspired by 3 things; 1) the horrifying fact that my home state (Arizona) is ranked 3rd in the nation for human trafficking activity, 2) my first time attending a Chippendale’s show (LOL. I’m still scandalized) and 3) Operation Underground Railroad – a nonprofit organization that actually runs missions into foreign countries to rescue children from human traffickers.

    • I love this idea- very interested in the character. Couple thoughts: how does Shaolin make the transition from former military to investigative work- is she going to use proper legal channels or is this a more instinctual, no-regard-for-the-rules act? Seems like that could be a point of conflict- and what specifically did she do in the army that would make her feel unworthy- I tend to think of EOD as doing good. Would love to know how this progresses!

      • Curleyqueue – Thanks for this. I’m still trying to flesh everything out, so thank you for the questions. That gives me more to work on. As far as how it progresses, feel free to subscribe to my blog. Adult romance is a new genre for me and I plan to blog about my process as well as my writing material.

  • I’m not exactly present in the comment section, but I decided to just try my best at doing this, because it seems interesting and I liked everyone else’s ideas, so sharing mine with the world!
    For now, I am working on a fantasy book and I actually have four main characters:
    Theva is the strongest witch in the kingdom, feared because of ther power and hated because of her relationship with the king. She is married and has a baby, and because her magic, she feels tied to this family, so she never allows herself to truly believe in the king’s promises. At the same time, she tries to stop a magic-madness going in the kingdom for too long.
    Hethen is a knight and she lived in very bad conditions as a child, and only when she finally decided to become a knight, does her situation get better. She is in love with a lord scientist, but she doesn’t have the money or influence of title fitted to be anywhere near him. So, to gain the right to be by his side without having to hide from the world, she is ready to risk her life.
    Noah is a young man, the younger child in a family of 8, and the only boy. He works with his father during the day and misses his mother (gone in another part of the kingdom to work) greatly. Their family lives in poverty, and while the girls will be married off to someone eventually, they cannot exactly afford to keep Noah around. So he’s sent away to train in magic and do something with his impulses of throwing rocks by simply wanting to.
    And Noemi is the older child of a lord, but because she is a girl, she is opressed by the men in the household, always made to keep her mouth shut, to do whatever for those above her. She has a twin younger brother, and they both can feel whenever something bad will happen. And while he is the only one respecting and appreciating her, he’s also the one helping her to get away, by invinting over the king’s right hand and proposing them to take Noemi to the king’s castle.

  • Dawneva used to be a bit of an idealist, quick to smile and to lend a hand. She’s a typical suburban wife, mom, and HR professional but tragedy has fractured her family. Torn by grief, her disabled husband has become abusive and she feels trapped in a hopeless future. Her uncharacteristic choice is to escape into an affair by logging in to a site for married daters. She finds more than she bargained for, including sex, love and options for freedom.

    • I like it! One suggestion: Instead of “a bit of an idealist” make her a full throttle, rose-coloured glasses, hearts and rainbows idealist so that when her world crumbles, it is that much more painful for her. Extreme characters, make for extreme stakes and extreme drama 🙂 And instead of her finding just plain old sex, let her find something over the top, like kinky, extreme sex, obsessive love and that there is always a high price for true freedom. This way, her character arc becomes more interesting and will leave the reader asking “Will she circle back to her idealism or will she become a cynic? Or will she end up a cautious idealist?” 🙂

      • Should characters be extreme or relatable? Or have relatable traits that are on steroids? Or be “normal” characters in abnormal circumstances (extreme tragedy, extreme grief, extreme challenges and choices) who, like Claire and Henry in Time Traveler’s Wife, desperately want a “normal” life? I struggle with this. Obviously. But just a bit. 😉

        • Maybe characters should be both extremely relatable and relatably extreme 🙂 I don’t think there is anything like a normal character in fiction because the nature of good storytelling requires characters to be abnormal in some way. So even if they are a normal character in an abnormal world, they are already abnormal by virtue of the fact they do not fit in their environment. But yes, it is a fine line we walk; creating bigger than life characters that the readers can still relate to at some level. 🙂 The good thing though is that the common human experiences – love, hate, revenge, jealousy, sacrifice – help to make even the most alien characters become more relatable.

        • Have you ever read any Dorothy Alison? She wrote Bastard Out Of Carolina. Check out her short story Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Know. It’s in an anthology called Trash. Her characters are both extreme and deeply relatable, as are her situations. Mostly her writing is just amazing as hell and everyone should read it, but her subject matter might help inform your story a little.

          • Liz, Thank you. I will look for Dorothy Allison.

            When you want something to last forever you treat it differently. Dawneva is idealistic to a fault (pink roses and puppy dogs) believing everyone is inherently good and worthy of love. That notion is challenged when her family is shattered by tragedy. No one is coping, least of all her husband; Dawneva is abused. Grief-stricken and desperate for love, she escapes into an affair, challenging her boundaries and risking her life in more way than one. What she finds along the way is romance, sex, kink, her own flawed boundaries, and forever love.

            redeemingquantity/upickdandelions

  • Tara is a newly bitten vampire who is trying to figure out what to do with herself after being bitten while being the sister of the Paladin, of their city. She was always the one who no one thought much of, who was thought of first as “The Paladin’s Sister”. Leading her to become a rather reckless individual who shuns everything her sister is, choosing to associate herself with the misfits of the city. She did something stupid to cause her sister to throw her out of their House which left her without any protection from the law. This is what led to her being bit by the vampire queen of the city.

  • From my almost-WIP (I’ve started writing, even though I haven’t finished editing my current short story)

    My protagonist is a brilliant inventor, and the head of R&D for a world-wide federation. He attributes his success at coming up with innovative inventions at his disdain for letting his mind wander. He focuses his thoughts on whatever interests him, finding ways of coming up with a new technology, or a way to improve current tech. He’s always thinking outside the box. He has improved world technology greatly as a result, but also came up with some clever weaponry. He has powerful enemies in the Federation’s main opponent as a result.

    Letting his mind wander brings back memories of a traumatic event in his childhood… he’s had severe PTSD from an early age, and rather frequently he unintentionally loses focus on his thoughts, letting memories creep in. The result is often a mental breakdown that can only be stopped with the help of drugs. Eventually he’s going to have to face his past…

    • I’m curious about his age, perhaps his general appearance. How would I recognize him in a cafe? What is his goal? Inventing? Inventing WHAT, in particular, would make him feel successful? I assume his PTSD gets in the way, as do his enemies. Is his medication a barrier to achieving his goal?

      • Excellent questions I hadn’t quite ironed out myself. I imagine him to be in his 40’s. Probably a clean-shaven white guy with brown hair and a receding hair line. (beyond that, I haven’t thought about his appearance much).

        The story takes place during a new World War. He’s using his inventive talent to help win the war for the Federation. Being the head of R&D, it’s his job (and passion) to keep ahead of the enemy technology-wise: faster space travel, weaponry, defense, and anything else that could be advantageous to the Federation. His tech includes a space-folding travel system, that so far is limited to points within the solar system; a new way to launch from Earth surface to orbit using an old beam weapon (making space elevators obsolete); a weapon that can get past a ship’s energy shields with brute force (kinetic projectiles). I might come up with others as I write.

        The PTSD gets in the way for sure, but I hadn’t thought of side-effects or anything other than availability for the medication itself. I might have to come up with some after-effects that mess him up. He’s really gonna hate me for this. 😉

  • Professor Coelacanth is a herring gull, he works in the School of Agriculture, Soil Science and Protostomia. He is the first person on site and discovers the body of Dr Swordfish (also a herring gull). Coelacanth is elderly but not frail, irritatingly absorbed in his discipline (soil science) and tends to puddle the ground with his feet while thinking, as it brings the worms to the surface. He was born on campus, a child of academics and is thus naive about the world. He is however determined to get to the bottom of his colleague’s murder.

  • Simon Rule is a part-Fae prosecutor in the Intergalactic Attorney’s office, destined to make the God Prosecution Unit in record time. His rapid ascent comes to an abrupt halt when the evidence in his case against a serial killer goes missing and he’s consigned to backwater planets prosecuting minor crimes.
    Determined to clear his name, he and his investigator seek to find out who’s responsible for ruining his career. Simon must survive assassination attempts, supernatural agency non-cooperation, a murder case with evidence issues and an impending apocalypse only the Karma Police can stop. Most importantly, he has to learn to believe in himself again.

  • In the Northern province of Chu, a great tragedy has occurred. General Zhang, the benevolent protector of the region, has been assassinated. Most of his family lay dead beside him. His youngest daughter, Li Li, missing. His army has been destroyed to the man.

    It’s clear from the horrible state of the corpses left behind that this was a Venom-Cult attack. The Venom-Cult leaves no witnesses, only bodies destroyed by the Five-Forbidden styles.

    Gong Gong, an Imperial Eunuch and advisor to the Lesser-Prince (The Lesser Prince is fourth in line for the Emperor’s throne) has been given the impossible task of finding the Venom-Cult and bringing them to justice and finding Li Li Zhang.

    Gong Gong, knowing that the greatest heroes of Chu will not be up to the task, does the only logical thing. He recruits Chu’s greatest villains.

    • Interesting. I am curious. What is it about Gong Gong that enables him to recurit Chu’s greatest villains? Was he a villain in the past? Did he come from a family of villains? How did he end up being an Imperial Eunuch? Was it willingly or was he coerced? Is he loyal to the Lesser Prince? Does he love his job as advisor? I just would like to know more about him because in your description, I didn’t get a sense of who your protagonist is and what makes him tick. 🙂

    • This is really interesting, but seems to be more of a story synopsis than really about your protag. He really doesn’t even enter the description until the second paragraph and for a minute I wondered if Li Li was who you were going to tell us about. 🙂 The idea of recruiting the villains is interesting and not something that is over done, though it will take some balancing to explain why and how he gets them to agree and how they don’t end up causing just as much damage as the Venom-Cult. So I’m definitely intrigued.

  • My protagonist(Miss Evelyn Winsome) is a 1898 steampunk girl wanting to find adventure in Yellowstone National Park. Adventure quickly finds her because when disembarking the airship the Persephone, the pilot of a small aether lit craft severs one of the airships tethers. Miss Winsome almost falls, but the handsome, Ranger Dashing rescues her. Her adventures in the first novella includes steaming geysers, grizzly bears, and a villain trying to stop the building of Old Faithful Lodge. She becomes friends with four college student who help her see that there is more to explore in life than pursuing a husband. Will Ranger Dashing continue to rescue her? Will her uncle,Theodore Roosevelt send her back home to her mother? Will the villain succeed in stopping the development of Yellowstone National Park as a tourist destination?

    • Too fun. It can’t be just about pursuing any husband for Evelyn though. It has to be about pursuing the right husband. Make her picky. Picky enough in fact that maybe she doesn’t notice Ranger Dashing, even when he’s saving her again and again, until that very special moment when she does finally notice him. Just a thought.

      Best wishes!

      • Oh, PD, do I have a list for you! Devon Monk’s steampunk and old west series (book four delayed but promised) beginning with Dead Iron. Lilith Saintcrow’s Bannon series, beginning with The Iron Wyrm Affair (steampunk and magic, gotta love it!).

    • I’m with Shelton Keys Dunning–this sounds like too much fun. I’ve been to Yellowstone and stayed in the Lodge there and absolutely loved it, so that would “enhance the experience” for me. I always enjoy it when something is set where I have been, I want to go over it in my mind and visualize the story in those places I know.

  • It’s Miss Congeniality meets The Net as a mixed-race former teen beauty queen and current neuroscientist falls for an assassin who kills using music and who is running away from the extra-terrestrial equivalent of The Mob. My protagonist wants to find out the truth behind her suspicion that extra-terrestrial messages are encoded in popular music. She also wants to help her musical assassin face his dark past and escape his dangerous present. And she wants to confront and defeat her own demons that stemmed from her lonely and confusing mixed-race, child-genius background.

    • “former teen beauty queen and current neuroscientist” Love it! It makes me think of Buckaroo Banzai. And playing Beatles records backwards for the secret messages! I want to know how someone could kill using music, and why messages are being passed. Do the humans (I’m assuming!) know about the extra-terrestrials, or is this something that’s going to be revealed in the plot? You’ve got me intrigued, this sounds like something I’d like to read!

      • Thank you so much for your comment warjna! I wish I could answer your questions but that would be giving away the plot 🙂 I must say that I have had so much fun (maybe too much fun!) doing research for this novel. I am a huge fan of conspiracy theories and the more I do my research, the more I find out that my crazy ideas are not actually that crazy. For example, i found out that killing/maiming with musc is nothing new. I also discovered that the trope of the “musical assassin” has been featured in numerous books, films, comic books and even songs. And of course, messages being encoded in music is as old as, well, music 🙂 I hope to soon find out that extra-terrestrial messages are in fact truly eing encoded in popular music 🙂 Thanks again for your comment!

  • Cambria and her older brother Michaelis are the children of Cavimi Astimio, who is an irreverent kick-ass sell-sword, and the djinn (genie) he inadvertently freed. They all spent happy years dodging the djinn-hunters, and are a really strong family unit. Until one day, Cambria wakes to discover her mother vanished without a trace and her father has no memory of the mother, even though he knows Cambria and Michaelis are his kids. So the trio try to find the mother: both Cambria and Michaelis believe she has been rededicated to temple service and given to a new master. The hope is if they can discover their mother’s name, they can free her for good, and restore Cavimi’s memory of her. That’s the basic plot line. There’s more to it, but just so you get a feel of the external pulls around Cambria.

    Her personality takes after her father. She’s confident, crass, and her wit is as sharp as her sword. Her anger and despair at her mother’s disappearance eventually fuels a greater need to free all the djinn from their servitude to the corrupt temple priests collectively called the “Omen–Readers”. Only just turned sixteen, though, Cambria is often too rash, acting before thinking, creating additional issues for the family. Her character arc needs to cover at least two, hopefully three books in the series. At some point she will need better coping skills, she will need to grow up some…she will need to learn when to trust people and when not to…basic teenagery things I think

    • Good motivations, good character flaws, lots of agency, and who doesn’t love a bit of oldy timey eastern mysticism in their fantasy? Genie stories are awesome.

      One question (and you’re probably all over this already) but is there an underlying reason for the enslavement of the genies beyond what Cambria is aware of? Might she be crusading to free them all when some would be best left under lock and key, or maybe the temple priests have some kind of save-the-worldy concealed purpose that she might throw into jeopardy without thinking (you’ve already said she’s a bit like her dad, and that she’s overconfident)?

      The reason I ask is that a big part of growing up is learning to see the world isn’t all black and white, good and evil, and this kind of screw up could fill at least some of that three-book arc you’re envisioning.

      Anyway, like it! Would read happily. 🙂

      • Absolutely. There’s a ton of back story and world building I have done and at the core of the story is the djinn–omen reader conflict. Not all the priests that serve the temples are corrupt and not all the djinn will be fit for release into society. And then, what do djinn-hunters do or become if there is no reason to hunt the djinn anymore? It’s really good to know that I’m on the right track with this. Thank you for taking time to comment. I really appreciate the input!

    • It would be very interesting to have a djinn as mother. I’m curious as to what else the family does between dodging djinn hunters. Do the kids go with the dad when he is hired as a sellsword? It seems like an action packed world that would be a fun read.

      • Think Renaissance Italy, when the city-states didn’t all get along and there were corrupt families like the Medici warring with each other. Similar system set up in this world, and there are a lot of jobs for a sellsword/mercenary type. Since the family all travel together, it’s safe to assume that they then would be invested in whatever job the father was hired to do…yes I can work with that. Maybe a subplot of a job that goes wrong and the ramifications that spread through the three novels? Hmmm

        Thanks for taking time to help me out. I’m glad to see the character(s) have generated some interest. Cheers!

      • Because Vikings! Er, but no, no Vikings in this particular story…This is currently in the outline it stage, and I’m not sure when I’ll have it done enough for Beta Reading…but since you’re volunteering (Thank you!) I will put you on my Beta Read list. Thanks!

  • Dianna McDunna is the Huntmaster of New Orleans, tasked with keeping the peace between humanity and the growing supernatural world. Twelve years into the job Dianna is proud of the work her hunters do, and is infamous for how long she’s held the post and how many kills she has, or is at least rumored to have. Coming on 40 she’s aware this is a career for the young, but dedicated to her hunters and the oaths she swore to serve and protect in one way or another, she isn’t about to retire. But it’s not been an easy 12 years and she’s got the scars, both physical and emotional, to go with it. It’s lonely at the top, but at least there’s no one there to push you down or shoot you in the back. When called to a conclave of Huntmasters, many of whom don’t care for her in your face American attitude or style, she has to deal with those prejudiced against her, even as she tries to save them from a monster bent on hunting the hunters. In the middle of everything the estranged son of the London huntmaster, learns what his father really does for a living, and when his father is one of the first to be attacked he’s not about to let Dianna go it alone. But new to the supernatural world and nearly as stubborn as she is, it’s possible he’ll get them both killed before all is said and done.

  • I hope this isn’t too long. Story is still in the planning stage.

    Shade is a biker, but she’s also a lady, and not an “old lady”. She’s stoic and sly. Smarter than most of the guys she runs with, but smart enough to know how to blend into their hierarchy without stepping on any toes which she hasn’t consciously decided to step on. She’s become a learned manipulator of people and situations and she’s a hard ass. She’s been with motorcycle gangs since she came to a club president in Virginia as a refugee from abuse when she was 16, and since then has learned how to build bikes, maintain her value to those who can benefit her, not be afraid of men, and protect herself.

    She’s around 35 now and running with a more cutthroat chapter of her club on the west coast. They are traffickers of stolen goods, drugs, etc. She’s become self serving, living from moment to moment just like them. On the night of her induction as a full member, she finds out that the club systematically preys on young women, mostly prostitutes. What they do with these women is another side of the story and the club’s deepest darkest secret, but basically Shade freaks out, takes her cut of their income and must flee across the country.

    She’ll return to the people she’s met and trusted along the way before she came to the west coast, and she’ll learn how to stop always guarding herself so much that she pushes them away. She takes stock of what she wants to accomplish before she dies, as these bikers are gonna kill her if they can catch her. Her journey ends up really being about her making preparations for her death, and that comes to mean ensuring the future of her loved ones. Action and feats of cunning ensue.

    • I really like the sound of your character, and I like the story you’ve outlined. There are some unusual twists here. It’s very different to read a story where the protagonist knows she’s going to die. Have you thought about how you’re going to lead up to that? Will there be a surprise ending? You don’t have to answer that but I’m wondering if you are considering it. It also seems like a real challenge for a reader to get into a story where we know what the ending will be very early on. I think it can be done, but it’s a tougher road for a writer, too.

      • Oh lord no, I’m trying to make this easy on myself. 🙂
        Her death will not be definite, only threatened throughout her cross country flee. Only likely. Something she’s forced to accept the possibility of.

        • Ah, now I get it. That will definitely add to the tension and suspense in your story.

          I’d read it. There aren’t a whole lot of books out there with middle-aged badass women in it. We need more, and your book sounds like it really fits the bill.

  • Sure, I’ll play.

    Helcion Brixton works as a black market surgeon in the sphere-cities operated by robotic Controllers. While the rest of humanity toils beneath their soft but quickly tightening dictatorial grip, Brixton lives in their territories, like a rat in the cracks. No one, even the friends she sees every few months, know why she lives in such a dangerous environment. If they snatch her no one will find her.

    On one normal reckless day, like any other, she finds a Controller infected with a techno-organic plague. It slowly spreads, and who knows where it will go?

    All right, I gave some of the plot, too. 🙂

  • My protagonist, Simon Rule, is a part-Fae. Shunned by his family because his magic powers don’t fully manifest, he goes to law school and becomes prosecutor in the Intergalactic Attorney’s office. He becomes a rising star, destined to make the God Prosecution Unit in record time, until the evidence in his case against serial killer Danny Perdition goes missing. He’s consigned to backwater planets prosecuting minor crimes.

    Determined to clear his name, Simon and his investigator seek to find out who’s responsible for ruining his career. He has to survive assassination attempts, supernatural agency non-cooperation and an impending apocalypse only the Karma Police can stop. He also has to learn to believe in himself again.

    • You have some interesting ideas here, but I think also some clashing ideas which you’re doing to want to make sure you build out. It sounds like you’re combining fantasy and sci-fi, which is a fun take, but makes me wonder if the Fae referred to is alien or traditional and how magic powers play into the politics of a multworld system. I also want to know why the missing evidence is tied to Simon versus anyone else involved in the case. You’re dropping a lot of names, like the Karma Police and the God Prosecution Unit which feel a little tongue in cheek, but will need to be properly placed in your set up to keep us reading. All in all it’s interesting and fun!

  • Thanks for this blog post. I’m really enjoying reading about everyone else’s characters. It’s so much fun – I love what you’re all coming up with, and I’m learning a lot as I go through the comments.

    ***

    There must be…what? Hundreds of thousands of college students in North America alone? Sutton Kopec would probably blend in with any of them. An average-sized brunette with average looks, she’s never been someone who stands out, except when it comes to her recently-discovered ability to launch into alternate universes.

    She has no interest in visiting others worlds – she’s got quite enough to do getting by in the one where she was born. Sutton goes to college full time near her home in a rural part of New Jersey, and works to help support her mother, a human-services administrator, and her younger teenage sister. She’d like to have time to ponder her own future some day, if only she had a few minutes to squeeze out of classes, studying, and waitressing.

    Terrified when she’s dropped into a vast ocean during a storm, Sutton is positive she’ll drown. She’s helped by a fisherman in a passing boat. But she’s not as lucky when she Moves to other places. She has to learn to fend for herself and come out alive through frequently dangerous situations. Along the way, she finds the answer to what happened to her missing father: he’s stuck “out there,” constantly Moving, and he can’t get home. She can’t find the solution to his problem, much less the bigger issue of how and why this is happening to her at all.

    To make things worse, she often runs into the same guy when she’s tossed into these other worlds. Craig Teale is her exact opposite: arrogant, athletic, good-looking, wealthy..and with the sense of entitlement that comes with all of those traits. They’re forced to work together to survive, and Sutton would rather roast in the center of a supernova than spend another minute with him. How can she make it all stop?

    ***

    I’m stuck on some major plot points that are making it tough to move ahead. I want to link the source of Moving to actual science, and then play around with that science. Lithium is an element that was present at the Big Bang but, unlike other elements (e.g., hydrogen), it isn’t found in the human body. Sutton and others like her have a certain level of lithium within them. When they start to Move, their cell phones start to react strangely because of the lithium batteries. How could she figure this out? And how could she learn to manage or control her ability to Move? Does she need to give up her cell phone? (Wouldn’t that be a vicarious thrill for a parent like me?)

    • Very interesting character idea. I think she needs to quickly find a measure of control over at least some aspects of her situation, some agency and choice, to make us follow her. About lithium: it should have a fairly heavy effect on them (it’s used as a medicine for mania and depression), so maybe her friends will think she’s nuts (and that the meds aren’t working) instead of believing her

      • Thanks for your comments! I’m trying very hard to stay away from the medicinal uses of lithium. I don’t want to make it seem like Sutton has psychiatric issues or is hallucinating. She doesn’t suffer from anything like that; it’s a physical phenomenon where she actually Moves to other worlds. She’s present in that AU while her body is also still here on Earth. Only a few seconds pass on Earth while she could be spending hours in another world.

        Lithium seemed like a good choice because it was present during the Big Bang, and I wanted to tie into that because part of the background here is that people who Move have more lithium present in their bodies, and that dates back to the beginning of time. People have been Moving since just past the primordial ooze. 🙂 I needed an element that typically isn’t found in the human body, but wouldn’t be toxic in small amounts. I couldn’t use something like hydrogen which was also present at the start of the universe, because humans need hydrogen to live. It’s in everyone’s personal periodic chart.

        • Ahhh gotcha. Yeah it makes sense. I guess my question though is: in a world where certain people have trace lithium that gives them these “mover” abilities, what happens to people who actually get dosed with a big ‘ol whack of the stuff? It’s a question that popped into my feeble brain, so I’m guessing a few of your readers will be curious also 🙂

          Sounds like a really cool story, maybe slightly reminiscent of Replay (damn good book) or the Long Earth (not so good but interesting).

          Best of luck with it! 🙂

        • I noticed your comments about lithium not being toxic; actually, it is. People who take lithium for mental health reasons have to have their kidney function checked regularly. My aunt’s ex was on lithium until he had to be taken off it or die, then he was prescribed epilum, normally prescribed for people with epilepsy but can help people with chemical imbalances.

          I don’t want to derail what is an interesting story and character; I’m just adding some info into the mix. Maybe it can help provide a plot-twist later or something.

          • Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve read up on lithium and I did see a number of medical reports that say patients who take lithium can overdose if they’re not careful and monitoring their intake. I’ve been thinking about adding a twist on that for my plot: she starts to feel symptoms of lithium overdosing right before she Moves, because the lithium levels in her body are increasing to facilitate going to an AU. I really appreciate your thoughts on this (and I hope your aunt’s ex is doing better).

            I just have to figure out a way to avoid bringing in the medical uses of it into the picture. I really don’t want readers thinking it’s a psychosomatic problem, because it’s not.

    • I think stories were probably a little easier to maintain conflict in before everyone had cellphones. Think of all the times in horror movies when everything could have worked out just fine if somebody had had a cell!

      • That’s not true, it just makes writers have to not be lazy. The isolated settings of the best horror lends itself to dead zone quite well, even if the dead zone is becoming a bit of a cheat. There’s also the sucky batteries on today’s phones, and the possibility that nobody will pick up.

        • I think they’re really a double edged sword that way. Though I always just notice how they make things easier. Fast communication and transpiration did revolutionize everything after all. Maybe their benefits and drawbacks to story just balance things out to make things different rather than worse or better. Chuck Wendig could do a whole blog post on the subject probably.

          • I guess it’s like almost anything else: you can find a way to use it to your advantage, even if you want to screw things up for your character. The thing is, you almost can’t leave a cell phone out of your story any more. Readers are very likely to comment if a character doesn’t have or use a cell phone because they’re so prevalent.

    • Woo! Alternate universes? You bet I’m interested.
      I just hope that this Craig Teale doesn’t end up being her hated-then-loved interest…. Don’t lay on the contrast too thick because while hate *can* turn into love reasonably easily, it can just as easily seem bad.
      I’m thinking it’s a case of bad first impressions type thing? 😉

      • Nope, that’s not going to happen. They will become allies and then good friends, drawn together by their similarity in Moving. But I made the decision when I began writing that they wouldn’t become romantically involved. I believe strongly that a romance would interfere with what Sutton has to do for herself.

        I don’t know whether they’ll wind up together in any future books I might write if this becomes a series. TBH, I haven’t plotted that far ahead. Right now, it’s definitely off the table.

    • You know, I always think about this when I read books or see movies where people can transport themselves like that. What if you end up melded into a wall somewhere, right? Fuck that. I think I’d like to read this. Not just because of that teleporting issue either, I like young characters who have complicated, low income lives. I think there’s lots to like about this so far.

      • Thanks! A big part of my plan for my protagonist is showing how a typical girl can do some extraordinary things when she has to. She’s got a lot to figure out, and there will be some curve balls thrown at her along the way.

    • This really intrigued me! I love her reluctance around her powers/other worlds and I instantly want to know more about Craig Teale! I also think the lithium plot line is interesting, and I can see a point in the story where maybe she’s finally accepting her abilities and then a lithium build up makes her sick, have to stop, something along those lines.

      I’d love to see more of this story! Let me know if you need a reader!

  • Awesome, cheers for this post. Here’s my contribution:

    Space pirate Captain Roger (not real name), is a fugitive. He’s preempted mutiny by marooning his crew on an asteroid, and is now on the hunt for the mind hacker that revealed his location and identity to the Royal Space Navy. He’s not happy, and is giving the bottle a beating.

    The hunt takes him to the port of New Canton, where he’s swiftly shipwrecked by a dragon quarantine blockade. He’ll need every ounce of cunning and swashbuckling he has just to survive… nevermind work out who lured him into the trap, and why. Oh, and fix his ship.

    His main kicker is that he has always fought his way out of situations, and thought about only himself. This worked out great for him…once upon a time.

    Now he’s pushed everyone away, the world has gotten smaller, and enemies are closing in. He has a choice – to start doing what he’s always done, take what’s his at the point of a sword and damn the cost… or to try something else. He’s not even sure what that something is, but he knows he’s nobody’s white knight…

    That doesn’t stop him making new friends on his unintended vacation time (if everyone would stop trying to kill him the place is really quite nice), and he’s soon chummy with a young lady tour guide, a resourceful business woman, a seductive spy, and a retired pirate King.

    He also meets people that want him to join them to break the system, crush the Empire’s hold on the colony, and others that want him to protect it, and keep order. They’ve all got leverage on him, from his criminal record, to the lives of his new friends.

    In the end though, he has to find his own drunken, debauched, explosion riddled path to redemption… or the grave

      • Awww thank you! 😀 That’s a very very nice thing to hear, seeing as though I’m a bit of a redcoat myself. I just gotta try to finish polishing the thing and I’ll start looking for a publisher. Thanks again!

    • You had me at ‘Space pirate Captain Rogers’. This sounds really good, I want to know more about him and the boatloads of conflict he has to face. The last line in particular is brilliant. Just a question about the Empire though – are they affiliated with the Royal Space Navy or are those separate entities? And what’s this about a dragon quarantine blockade? (I guess these would be answered by reading it.) Best of luck with revisions!

      • Thank you! Muchly appreciated, and I see what you did there (pirate + boatloads of conflict) 😀

        Sorry about the vagueness… I was struggling with the urge to dump down the entire story pitch, including details of who all the players are, but I wanted to keep on task (just about who Roger is).
        The Royal Space Navy are the naval arm of the Brittanian Empire, so yup, definitely affiliated, but here’s where things get complicated: they’re controlled by the admiralty rather than the Governor. The Governor exerts more control over the Company (the merchant navy), and the Royal Marines are largely independent from everyone…
        Nice and bureaucratic, with a ton of in-fighting.

        The quarantine is in place because dragons (a genetic construct left over from the System War) are capable of razing entire cities when roused. This particular winged beastie is lurking in the mountains, somewhere near the edge of the biodome, but nobody is letting their guard (or their blockades) down. Of course Roger is lucky enough to get caught by it on day one…

  • Lex has always been a little…off. Suffering from hallucinations much of her life and abandoned by her mother to be raised by her less-than-spectacular father, she has a few issues to say the least. But she’s determined to make a life of her own and let the past rest. Starting over in Seattle, she works the nightshift at a convenience store and tries her best to ignore her worsening hallucinations. She takes her meds, she goes through the breathing exercises- until the night a man soaked in blood saves her from certain death. At the hands of one of her ‘hallucinations’. Except they’re not hallucinations. They’re very much real and she’s no longer the only one seeing them. All over Seattle, and the rest of the world, reports of demon attacks flood the news and internet.
    Armed with a bone to pick, budding demonic abilities and a new, if slightly frazzled, ally Lex must figure out who her mother really was and who she’ll have to become to save her new home. That’s if she can survive being eaten, captured or worse. Because there’s always a worse.

    I’ve always had issues articulating my characters.T_T Normally I just let the plot guide me and work out the kinks later but I’d really like to find a way to improve upon that. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read my brain vomit. 😀

    • Okay, this one I definitely want to read! You did just fine articulating this character, enough that I can already easily see this as the blurb on the back cover. “Because there’s always a worse” True dat!

    • I’m in!! Lex appears to be a cool character and I have a thing for the world being dumped into demonic nightmares! The only suggestion I can think of is to give Lex a strong agenda from the get-go (as she comes off as a little reactive in the beginning).

    • I am so, so intrigued with the line between what the world calls hallucinations and things that are “real” but only seen by certain people. The night shift at a convenience store is such fertile ground for WEIRD. I’m curious- will she be relieved or terrified with these new developments? Does the blood soaked stranger stick around and induct her into this new reality? When she stops taking the medications, is she more able to control her situation? I would love to see where you go with this!

      • “The night shift at a convenience store is such fertile ground for WEIRD.” You are SO right, Ashlie! There, and those little 24-hour diners like Egg Platter and Pancake House. I think I need to file this concept in my little brain for later…

  • Doctor Arwydd Jones is an archaeologist in a seemingly ‘Utopian’, steampunk future. All of the cities and other places previously thought lost to man have returned, and are considered places of strong magic, but are all perfectly normal to the general public. Dr. Jones’ father was a Welsh rebel, her mother was a Scottish musician, and she was primarily raised in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, though they moved to New Orleans for a spell when her father gets a job there, hunting ghosts with his unique gifts that e passed to all three children.
    The middle child, Arwydd doesn’t get much contact with her older brother Tommy and her younger sister Dru after and incident when they were younger.
    After taking a job in the Oxford Maegien Archaeology Society, she is sent to Shang Gri La to help with the new excavations there, as it is the newest of the recently raised dead cities. Her bosses not only want to learn about the place, but also discover what it is that is bringing the cities to the surface. To aid her on this journey, the Society has a policy of sending body guards with their usually scatterbrained professors, and Arwydd is totally averse, able to look after herself. She refuses to even consider a bulky, trigger-happy, ex-army mercenary following her around the digs, until she meets the candidate. Ex-Atlantean Navy, Alison Finch.
    The two form a close bond over their dangerous time in Shang Gri La, as they slowly unravel a conspiracy that has been forming and working behind the scenes since the times of the Society’s beginnings in the Victorian era, and they are dragged into the fast-paced world of assassins and master thieves and secret, cult-like societies.
    Arwydd is an intelligent, logical woman with a tendency to end up with her head in the clouds. She’s brilliant, but she sometimes forgets the basics, like eating and sleeping, in pursuit of her work, and haunted by the catastrophe that split her family all those years ago. She can pilot three different models of dirigible/airship, speak several ‘dead’ languages.
    Alison is down-to-earth and practical, expert in combat and navigation, but a little too hard hearted sometimes. She doesn’t exactly lack empathy, but she’s awkward with emotions and people. She grew up in Atlantis, learning to swim better than a fish and lived in hot, sticky climates. She becomes attached to Jones fairly quickly, finding her cooky nature endearing.
    The two learn loads from each other as they go, and end up realising their love for each other by the end.

    • This sounds really interesting, especially the idea of lost cities being brought “back to life”. And I love the contrast between the two characters (slightly absent-minded professor and trigger-happy ex-sailor). Arwydd seems more three-dimensional than Allison, is the story just from her POV or will you use both her’s and Allison’s POV?

  • The main character of my WIP is Maeve, the sister of Aeneas, a (real) clan chieftain in 17th century Scotland. She was brought up to be obedient, but she harbors a secret rebellious streak that only comes out when she’s with her cousin Malcolm, who is more like a brother to her. He teaches her all the useful skills Aeneas won’t teach her, like self-defense and knife-fighting. She caught the pox as a young girl and it took her parents and most of her village, so she (and most of the village) believe she is cursed. She has visions that she can’t always explain, and bad luck follows her like the cloud of ravens that are always circling over her home. Aeneas eventually marries her off to get rid of her, and she grudgingly obeys, hoping it might break the curse. But on the way to the wedding she and Malcolm are attacked by invading English soldiers. She is saved by a rag-tag group of cattle raiders, but Malcolm is kidnapped by the English – and being used as bait to catch Aeneas. One of the cattle raiders, Eamon, has his own secrets that might turn the tide of the war, but he learned long ago to trust no one. As the English are tightening their grip on Scotland, Maeve is confronted with the very freedom she always wished for, the freedom to choose her own way. Yet now the lives of those she loves – and the fate of Scotland – hang in the balance.

    I’ve struggled a bit with bringing Maeve fully to life, as the plot (which is based on a true story) sometimes dictates things more than she does. She is driven by her desire to make her own decisions in a world of men that has always made them for her, but she is also driven by loyalty to some of those men. She is held back by her inability to control her fear/visions, and by the consequences of her decisions (losing loved ones and being caught in a siege, etc). And I’ve found that with each new draft, Eamon is becoming more of a main character than a secondary one… So I’m a little bit stuck in terms of balancing character agency with historical accuracy. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • She seems a bit powerless at the beginning – marrying without choice, being saved by cattle raiders… what if she starts forming some kind of plan, and enacting it, on the way to the wedding?

      You said yourself that Malcolm brings out her rebellious streak, so maybe she does start to show some agency on that journey, and then the tragedy is that the person who inspires it in her is taken away: how will she go on?

      Don’t know if you’ve read a Song of Ice and Fire, or seen Game of Thrones, but Samwell “The Slayer” Tarly is a perfect example of the weak / scared character finding their strength. He runs the vote to get his friend to the top job, rescues the girl from having the give up her child, and all manner of other bad-assery… He doesn’t have to openly defy anyone, and he doesn’t have to beat anyone in a duel. He just makes the hard choices. Your Maeve can do that I reckon!

      • Thanks so much for your comment. You’ve articulated exactly what I was going for. So yes, she is powerless at the beginning, because of her overbearing brothers, but then when she finds herself among complete strangers (with no family to tell her what to do), she can make her own decisions. I do try to show her rebellious streak in the beginning, but she has to hide that part of herself from Aeneas. It comes out more and more as the story goes on, and she eventually finds her voice. At least that’s what I’m trying to do.

        I’ve fallen behind on watching Game of Thrones, so I haven’t seem Samwell become a badass yet, but that is what I’m trying to do with Maeve. She isn’t the strongest character physically, but she has other strengths, and she learns how to harness her powers of observation/intuition to help others. I will definitely look to Samwell for more inspiration. Thanks very much!

    • Your challenge of fleshing out a character whose world has to reflect an actual historical time period reminded of Nicola Griffith’s novel “Hild”. Hild was an actual person in 7th Century Britain, and I can only imagine the challenges of respecting the historical reality while developing a conflict-ridden, entertaining story. I, too, have struggled with a character who is not weak, but respectful, caring and conditioned to play a passive role. She’s going to have to be put in situations where she uses those skills whether she meant to or not. Just remember, you are writing fiction. You can take liberties with developing characters even if those characters don’t reflect the typical gender roles for that time.

      • I haven’t heard of “Hild” before but I will check it out. It sounds fantastic, and very similar to what I’m trying to do. The way you described this kind of character (“not weak, but respectful, caring and conditioned to play a passive role”) is exactly who Maeve is. I would add loyal too, so she isn’t passively obedient for no reason. I love fierce, badass female characters, but they don’t all start out that way. I’m interested in seeing how they find that confidence, how they learn to overcome their conditioning and start to fight their own battles.

        Your point about taking certain liberties with the historical era is also really helpful. I’m such a stickler for historical accuracy, but I want to find the balance between the facts and making compelling fiction/characters. Thanks so much for your feedback, I really appreciate it!

    • The beautiful thing about history is that even though we humans like to believe we’ve evolved socially, we haven’t really. The same things that drive us today drove us “back in the day” as well. So the rules are different for Maeve, because of what is expected of her to do, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t powerful. Every strong-willed female remembered from history faced the burden of the male-dominated society by crafty manipulation and charisma. Queen Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Eleanor of Aquitane, women to be reckoned with.I guarantee you that Maeve would have to have been just as crafty and charismatic.

      Now, I wonder if maybe the wedding arrangement itself could be approached with different eyes. Think if this was today. Say an older brother, barely eighteen years old, is suddenly left with the responsibility of becoming his youngest sister’s parents. Even if he was bred from the cradle to take over the family business, maybe the idea of “raising” his sister is so odd he often falls short of doing so. A brother in such a position might be willing to have leniency. Using this, perhaps it was Maeve herself that suggests the match to Aeneus. A “I’m frustrated with you, but I won’t marry you off just to be rid of you sister, because you’re all the family I have left” and “Why not marry me off? I have an idea or two about that” sort of thing. It can become her contribution to her people and to her brother’s legacy that way. -Especially since you say her rebellious streak really only comes out with her cousin Malcolm.

      Just a thought. A wordy thought. But a thought nonetheless.

      As far as writing period correct, historically accurate fiction the trick is to not get so bogged down in the details of the time. Let historians create the textbooks. You’re creating fiction. Infuse the details into your story, but make sure it takes a back seat to the plot and the character arc. History might be dictating your plot, but your character still needs agency to operate in this world.

      Best wishes with everything, including your PhD!

      • Thank you so much for your comments. I agree with everything you said about those strong-willed ladies from history, and I’m hoping Maeve will achieve similar levels of craftiness 🙂 That’s a really interesting take on the arranged marriage from Aeneas’ perspective, one that I hadn’t really thought of. I think Aeneas would still be the one to arrange it for her, but I will play around with that idea and see where Maeve takes it. You and D.R. Sylvester have given me lots of inspiration for allowing Maeve’s rebelliousness to come out sooner in the story.

        And yes I hope I can achieve that elusive balance between fact and fiction. It’s been a fun challenge seeing where the gaps are in the historical record and letting my imagination fill them in!

        Thanks again, I really appreciate your feedback.

  • Chuck, I love you! After a month of med-induced inability to string a sentence together, I’ve ditched the meds and regained my mind, just in time to find this blog article!

    Ari Dillon thinks of herself as a normal American woman, but she’s not. Ari was once the victim of a psychopath; she not only survived, she escaped and was instrumental in his capture and conviction. Since then she has healed, and rebuilt her life. With fire-colored hair and storm-colored eyes, she’s fighter fit and warrior souled, but scarred within and without by her battles. She is warm, caring, a little aloof and a little sad, and dedicated to helping people, because at a time when she desperately needed help there was no-one but herself.

    But now she’s been kidnapped by aliens, along with a couple thousand other people. Except that the aliens aren’t—they’re descendants of Earth humans brought to Thanah two millennia ago by the real aliens, the Seekers. The Seekers are long since dead, and the Thanae are dying out because of a low birthrate, so for more than a thousand years they have raided Earth to keep up their numbers and stay alive.

    Once again Ari has lost everything she knew and loved, and must begin again. She becomes the liaison between the Thanae of her House, the House of the Black Dog, helping the Earthers to fit in and find their place among the Thanae.

    And then Khamasur, Master of House Kel Arain and deadly enemy of her own House, has Ari kidnapped out of the marketplace. He has a proposal for her: she is to spy on the master of her House, and bring him information about his plans. When she protests, he shows her the prize he will use as leverage—a young girl Ari met after the Earthers arrived on Thanah.

    He just made the biggest mistake of his life: he threatened a child.

    And they will never be the same.

  • Fry Nelson awakens from a 2-year coma to find he has no memory of his last assignment – and for good reason too: it would kill him. Not only the memory of it, but the information he gleaned during that assignment in Cairo would get him killed.
    Fry Nelson is a Bounty Hunter – demoted from a Covert Spy by his boss – working for The Company. It’s 2050. The future of the government in Australia isn’t good. The everyday person isn’t safe in any way; and The Company is a place for people to go to hire Bounty Hunters to help them get things done ‘nobody wants to do’ at a reasonable price…. and Fry Nelson is the best Bounty Hunter to do any job there is out there.
    But the more he mixes with society, the more danger he is placing himself in. The closer he becomes to anyone in his life, the more likely they’ll be killed for knowing him… and when he finds out his ex-wife is still alive? All hell breaks loose!

    • Your world sounds neat, and the company sounds neat, but all I really got about the character from this is that Fry is the best Bounty Hunter in the Company, though demoted from being a Covert Spy, and that he has an ex-wife and probably intimacy issues due to people near him possibly becoming targets.

      Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like a very interesting story and there is plenty of room in the book for the character to develop intricacies, but from this he sounds a bit like a generic typical male action hero with a couple of cyberpunk story tropes (the 2 year amnesia, the Company) thrown in to place him into a Cyberpunk setting.

      I’d read it. If it was a movie I’d definitely watch the hell out of it. But you’d need to do something special in the narrative to make me see the character as something more than a pair of brackets that read “”

      That said, you say it is only the first book. Is it available somewhere?

      • Thank you for your useful criticism. The book of Fry Nelson started out as a 5-story short novel, but then, it kind of took on a life of its own; Fry at the helm of the rather demented ship. I’m kind of proud of what it turned into by the end of the third book – which is a total opposite of what you’d expect from the beginning.

        I’ve done something with this book where each chapter is a short story, and at the end of each story, it kinda kicks the underlying story along to keep it going. It’s an unusual way of writing; and truthfully, I didn’t think it would work. However, I finished the trilogy last year and kicked it to an editor friend of mine who judged it by the 7th story, but then, she stopped herself and kept reading through to the very end… and by then, she was really impressed with what I was trying to do.

        I had written a Cyberpunk set of books kind of like ‘Supernatural’, but not… set in the future, and yet there’s an old-world style to them. She told me I needed to work on them more before letting anyone else read them – and I’m afraid to say – that’s what I have to do this coming year when I sit down and look at the books again (as I’ve decided this year is my year away from them – I have spent the last 5 years looking at them, and nothing else).

        But when I do publish them, they will come in ebook and real book formats… so everyone can have a go at them. I might even have somebody have a go at audio version of them if I’m approached about that format. 🙂

        I’ll keep you updated about it. I do have a Fry Nelson blog about it, which is still active. If you’d like to go into my flash fiction blog and look at my profile, and pick out ‘Fry Nelson’ blog, it’ll take you right to it… start reading at ‘Chapter One – Book 1: Initiation’… it goes through to almost the finish to book 3… but a lot of things have changed since I posted these stories in that blog.

  • My character, Violet, is a legally blind girl starting high school in a universe cross between Buffy and Morganville. She starts school and, in her first maths class, the teacher insists on sending her to special ed because the teacher refuses to accept a disabled student into her class. Some teachers are good, some are awful. Violet has a best friend, Missy, and makes more friends along the way. She’s a bit of a bolshy diva, trained well by the blind human rights lawyer and an artist illustrator who are her two mums.

    Tonight in my assessment workshop for a graded assignment, I was told that Violet isn’t interesting. The teacher and a few students aren’t interested in a vision impaired student; they want Missy, a non-disabled character, to take over the story instead.

    I explained to them how vision impaired people are unlikely to finish high school and how people — even people in the publishing industry in 2015 — assume that vision impaired people like myself are unable to function. Last year an employee of an international publishing company who had volunteered to be my mentor in a disability mentoring program asked what my disability is; when I told her, she told me she didn’t want to be my mentor any more. She said I wouldn’t get a job in the publishing industry, that she would personally ensure her company wouldn’t employ me and that I should change not only my program of study but also the university at which I am studying.

    This is what motivates me to include a vision impaired character. Violet is 1 of 3 main characters who will all have highs and lows featuring very different issues. I’m devastated that, to maintain my distinction/high distinction grades, I have to write Violet out or at least diminish her story. I’d really appreciate feedback.

    • Dark Matter, DO NOT let anyone tell you that you have to write Violet out! Just because this isn’t interesting.to them does not mean it isn’t interesting to others! Are those fools unaware that there are disabled people who NEED to see people like themselves go through troubles and succeed? Excuse the heck out of me, but that’s what most YA books are about!

      This is EXACTLY why we need to write. Kim McManus says, “Your heartache is someone else’s hope. If you make it through, somebody else is going to make it through. Tell your story.”

      As for your disability mentor (and Violet’s!) I certainly hope that you told her that you wouldn’t want her to be your mentor if she paid you, and I hope you reported that attitude to her superiors. That is absolutely not the kind of person who should be doing any mentor work, and that needs to be addressed. And frankly, where the hell does she get off telling anyone that they should not only change their chosen field of study but leave the university they are studying at? I guess you can tell I’m incensed by this!

      Don’t stop. And don’t stop believing. You will succeed if you believe in your dreams.

      • Okay, now that I’ve calmed down a bit, let me say this: when you’re in school, sometimes you have to cater to the teacher’s “requirements” in order to get the grades you deserve. Teachers can be bigots just as often as other people. Learn from her what you can, and discard the bad stuff.

        And write your story the way you want to write it when you’re at home. Writing more than one version of your story is not a bad thing: it will give you insights into the characters that you might not think of with just one, and the writing practice itself can only help you to refine your craft. Good luck to you!

        • Thank you, for both your comments. I have something in my eye…
          And it’s 11:34 pm here and I have another night class tomorrow, so I’m off to bed. Not feeling quite as crushed now, thank you.

    • Everyone loves a hero. Its even more impactful if they have something in common with the hero. That is a form of mentorship, perhaps, the relationship between a character and her reader. I’m trying to think how I might write my own disability into one of my characters.

      You’ve been given terrific advice. Stay real.

    • I would love to read your story! I’m in a wheelchair and I’m so used to read books with characters I can’t relate to, and it really sucks. Not having books with disabled protagonists to inspire yourself is really tough because you read about all these badass characters that are able do everything you can’t do, and you have a really hard time trying to connect with them. I understand this works the other way round, the able-bodied have a hard time connecting with disabled people too; but that’s not a valid reason to stop writing these characters. DAMN IT, I’M CRYING. #TeamViolet

      • Thank you so much for your response. I have a book on my TBR pile — Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell — about a romance between a girl and a boy, the boy is in a wheelchair. Simmone tried to write it from both perspectives but didn’t feel she could provide an authentic voice for a person whose life was so far out of her own experience, so she wrote it from the girl’s perspective only. Although I haven’t read it yet (too many other books on my “must read for class” list) I don’t hesitate to recommend it because Simmone is my favourite writing teacher and every book she’s recommended to the class has been at least 4 stars (in my opinion, of the books I’ve read so far. And so was the one novel of Simmone’s that I have read so far.)

        She, too, is #teamviolet, something that maybe I should have mentioned in the other class last night but was too disconcerted and upset to even remember.

        Thank you.

    • First off, shame on your teacher for not encouraging you to capitalize on a unique character that you feel passionately about. And I have not the words for that so-called mentor.

      That being said, your brief description of Violet mostly seems to revolve around her disability and a plot point/conflict that stems from her disability. If others have read your work and say that Violet isn’t interesting – or that other characters are more interesting – you might want to analyse why. Overcoming blatant prejudice, while noble, doesn’t in itself a character make. Emotional backlash from a disability, the struggle of self acceptance (disabled or not) – the fears, flaws and motives of a character make them interesting.

      Personally, when I heavily relate to a character I’m writing there is always the tendency for me to make them what I aspire to be – and that suddenly makes them flat. It helps to make a list of a character’s good personality traits/motives and make sure it balances out with nearly (or more) bad traits/fears/vices/etc.

      Above all, write what you’re passionate about! #teamviolet

      • Thank you. I didn’t want Violet to be mouthy but she’s turned mouthy anyway. I’m not good at funny but Violet can, at times so far, be funny with the mouthiness. She’s loyal to her friends and she looks out for the victims in her world. But she’s one of 3 characters with differences that combine to both cause conflict, have fun (for them and the reader, not necessarily at the same time) and they have different challenges to overcome.

        Personally, I’m a fan of the vampires. They’re lawyers y’see. I know that’s been done before BUT these dudes have a scholarship program for high school kids that makes life… more interesting. And causes a new class divide. I still haven’t quite defined the vampires as characters, they’re more the 1% with an agenda than “real” people at the moment.

        And I’m not mentioning the fantasy element at school or, at least, not in workshops or with teachers. I have confessed to genre fans though, one of whom has been particularly enthusiastic and a really helpful sounding board. Thanks, Tessa! 🙂

        The reason I originally decided NOT to make Violet the one and only central character was that I didn’t want the novel to be boring, to feel like I was standing on my soapbox. I’m disappointed that some people think characters with disability can’t take center stage but… [shrug]

        I have a long way to go with my novel. Longer when I think not just of the plot but my desire to write humorous and heartwarming moments to add sparkle throughout the story. I’m concerned that Violet will be perceived as a Mary Sue but, trust me, her background is not mine; her background was inspired by Stella Young and Graham Innes. It was hearing their stories that I realised that some disabled people are accepted and loved by their families. This resolved lots of my concerns about the plot and Violet being boring, depressing and a one-trick pony. I didn’t start writing until I got to that point; I was seriously thinking of only writing a vision impaired person as a minor side-character like in the novel I have shelved for the time being. Graham Innes speaking at Stella Young’s memorial opened my eyes and solved my concerns about making a disabled teen a central character.

        I will take care. And write. And rewrite. And review your comments later. Thank you so much.

    • Do NOT write her out. Their “criticisms” are the reason we need these sorts of characters in fiction.
      I agree wholeheartedly with warjna, who’s put it better than I could (in both angry and calm ways). 🙂

    • They want you to dump Violet? That’s very flippin’ rude of them! It’s one thing to point out possible plot holes and weak points in a story, but telling a writer what traits their characters ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ have is simply railroading and trying to make you write YOUR story THEIR way. Well it’s NOT their story, it’s YOURS. Don’t let ’em do that to you, Dark Matter!

      Why in the holy heck CAN’T you have a visually-impaired hero? Why SHOULD Violet be demoted to sidekick, just because her disability forces her to approach the challenges of the story in a different way to a sighted person? Isn’t that what makes a story FRESH and ORIGINAL? I’m sorry if those people aren’t able to deal with that, but rest assured, they’re the ones with the problem, not you. As for your grade situation… is the teacher who wants Violet demoted going to have any hand in awarding your grades? If not, then I would say ignore what she says and go with your gut – it’s just her opinion and that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to agree with her. In fact, I’d say if your work honestly got downgraded just because you included a main character that’s visually-impaired like yourself, you’d have damn good grounds to appeal against the grading.

      Follow your heart and do what feels right for YOU. What you’re writing could be just the blast of fresh air the reading public needs.

      • Thank you for your kick-ass reply.

        My teacher does have the power of grading.

        I’m in two minds about re-writing the structure of my novel to comply with her agenda but, for the third assignment of the semester, I’ll submit something from Missy’s PoV (Chinese/Korean/American who discovers she’s queer and has a romance). Missy was already going to be a PoV character, just one of three. I love teams: their strengths, their weaknesses, their community. So Violet was never going to be a one-girl show.

        And then, after semester, I’ll get on to the “real” novel. A friend knows the full story… how, for certain teachers, it’s an “issues” novel where it is, in fact, A FANTASY NOVEL. Bahaha.

        I’m learning to both pander and keep my integrity, with the encouragement of people like you, Wendy. Thank you.

  • I like it! One suggestion: instead of “a bit of an idealist” make her a full throttle, rose-coloured glasses, hearts and rainbows idealist so that when her world crumbles, it is that much more painful for her. Extreme characters make for extreme stakes and extreme drama 🙂

  • My MC is an apathetic werewolf named Izzie who (apparently) just wants to live and let live. She’s surviving through life and acts selfishly on occasion, but she does believe everyone has a right to live comfortably and tends to stick up for the little guy when things are dire–complaining the whole time.

    Her apparent apathy is a cover for her anger: she wasn’t allowed to be with the one she loves. Izzie loved another woman back in the 1850s, was discovered, and in 1910 is still in disgrace. Hence why she’s stuck in Polynesia helping negotiate independence agreements.

    When she meets another supernatural and starts falling in love, her first reaction is fear. She pretends loathing and rebuffs the other woman, Charlotte. But Charlotte needs her help bringing justice to a group of wronged islanders. Izzie comes to her aid and ends up saving Charlotte’s life from rogue supernaturals, falling desperately in love and slowly losing all the trappings of bitterness she held onto for so long.

    • Definitely sounds interesting! Apathy is such a challenging trait — it can so easily slip into lack of character motivation — so kudos to you for tackling that. Always love seeing someone unpack their bitterness and becoming more loving and stronger for it.

  • Sasaki Sakura was raised in the village of Yamasura high up on the Ougawa Mountain. It is a quiet and remote village far from “civilization” where the people of Yamasura train their young in the art of ninjutsu so that they may serve the Saitou clan as Shinobi. When a child is old enough they take a final test that when successful marks them as an adult ready to serve the Saitou clan. Unfortunately for Sakura, she has failed this final test and exiled herself from Yamasawa. Using a stolen daisho (katana/wakizashi paired swords of a samurai) she disguises herself as the mercenary ronin, Sato while seeking a way to either prove her worth to Yamasura village or find another way to serve the Saitou clan. When Sato is hired by a merchant smuggling enemy agents into Inamori province, Sakura gets that chance.

  • Annette Boeing is sick of your shit. She’s held her tongue for 48 years and all she has to show for it is a divorce, an aimless daughter and a son who went to war, never came home. While she confesses she acted up during her teen years, she’s been a pious Christian most of her life. Soon, she will go on a rampage of sin that makes her atheist “sin coach” regret his decision.

    Annette is forty-eight, slightly built with dark brown hair. She’s been a homemaker but sometimes works part time at a daycare and as a church secretary. She has an unfinished degree in teaching, which she never really wanted to do. She was fine being a homemaker even though her female friends have jobs and sometimes stellar careers.

    Culturally, she leans conservative but bears no hatred for any race or sexual orientation. Of course, she votes Republican. If she does say something insensitive about another race, its more out of lack of contact and misconception than a deep seated fear.

    At the opening of the book, she’s landscaping her front yard alone to prove she can do things without asking for help. She’s haunted by her recently widowed friend, who hasn’t worked in 30 years, and struggles with the cash register at the fast food restaurant where she works. She fears being helpless and prays for strength, but every prayer just magnifies her helplessness both spiritual and psychological.

    Since I’m a male writing about a female, I’ve set some rules to avoid stereotyping. I don’t use deprecating words like “feisty” or infer her temperament is abnormal for a woman. She goes through a range of emotions and reacts how she chooses. Also, she’s an Evangelical christian, but I’m avoiding the usual secular criticisms of her culture although it’s implied its part of the problem.

    • Well, I think you’ve got something here. It makes me wonder what sort of sinful rampages a 48 year old divorcee could come up with (heh heh). Woman or not, christian or not, it’s always a fascinating story when someone decides to take back their life from whatever’s been controlling it. Also sin coaches? Is that a real thing? And he’s atheist? Whuh? And hey, dudes writing chicks ain’t as easy as it sounds in this day and age so I feel ya. The more you do it, the easier it will come. On the other hand, I know plenty of women who describe themselves as feisty and think their temperaments are abnormal for women so I guess it’s just one of those things you gotta figure out.

    • LOVE the sin coach and disdain for holding of tongues. I want to know what sins she gets up to, how her daughter reacts. What is her aim in the story? Is she trying to figure out what she really likes to do, find a new career? Just get comfortable saying what she means? I want to know how she takes power over her life. I’m intrigued!

  • I guess it’s my turn.
    13 year old Phillip Averrez wants one thing and one thing only and that’s to go home. And not get eaten by alien monsters. Okay that’s two things. And avoid the marauding slavers that are trying to capture him. Okay three things. When Phillip wakes up on a desolate alien planet with no idea how he got there, his first instinct is to cry. Then freak out. Then cry some more. Then he gets up and starts walking somewhere. He doesn’t know where, but he hopes it will somehow lead him home. Along the way he meets Cadet Major Omar Tenko, a dimension hopping law enforcer in training who thinks getting lost on a hostile world is so much fun, as well as lots of other people, places and things that may or may not want to eat Phillip. Other kids go to summer camp, but NO, Phillip has to end up on a Sci-fi adventure exploring ancient ruins and outrunning hideous alien monstrosities! Talk about rotten luck.
    So Phillip is one of the protagonists in my Work In Progress currently titled “Warp”. The other is Princess Milica of House Bredic from the Queendom of the Forked River who has to get home in time for the Festival of Ascension so she can compete against her siblings for the chance to kill her mother, the Queen, in a magic duel to the death so she can inherit the throne you guys! Like seriously!

    • That sounds like quite a romp. I’m wondering how Philip got into his situation. He seems like one of those “Joe Normal” characters swept up in a crazy adventure, which I like. It must be fun to write. 🙂

  • Ben Hart lives everyday under the influnce of two memories he can’t let go of: the accidental death of his mother and young brother and the abuse he received from his father who blamed Ben for their deaths. Although Ben was removed from his father’s home, he can’t escape from his memories or allow himself to let go of the past. Through a series of circumstances, Ben finds himself one day in Memoriam, a place where the good memories from earth are stored in the Light within the First Memory and where the bad memories from earth, if not brought into the Light, are doomed to manifest into dark shadows, forever haunting those on earth and in Memoriam. Ben doesn’t belong in Memoriam and did not find his way there as the other inhabitants d. Because of this, his two darkest memories have manifested much stronger, taking on physical forms capable of destruction and death, and must be overcome. In order to do this, Ben has to confront his fears, face the tragic memories of his mother and brother, and overcome the dark memories of his father before Ben and all of Memoriam are lost in darkness.

  • Two protagonists, mostly sharing the same story, until it splits apart near the end. A coming-of-age story in a mostly-peaceful fantasy world, with a couple noteworthy characteristics: 1) it’s matriarchal, with women filling the dominant/warrior role and men seen as companions, criminals, and/or unreliable itinerants. 2) It’s got a deeply-ingrained luddite code that’s hardened into an ethical framework… advanced technology production and trafficking is highly restricted, and often outright forbidden, by legal and social codes.

    The female protagonist – Edzie – is the daughter of a loose subaltern tribal people. The male protagonist – Stray – is her adopted brother, who was left with the tribe when his father absconded to pursue dubious means of employment in the major cities.

    Edzie’s tribe is always trying to keep her respectable, but she becomes more rebellious and confrontational, to the point of being almost pathological. She tends to lie to get her way, and to become ruthless in the face of challenges. Eventually, with a wedge driven between her and her tribe, she finds that her only reassurance is Stray’s companionship. This becomes an almost unhealthy driving force in her life.

    Stray is naturally social and talented, the type that everyone likes, but he’s eternally troubled by the loss of his father. Though the tribe loves him, they also treat him as an outsider, and his maleness further reinforces their dismissive attitude toward him. At age 16, he leaves the tribe to join a monastic order of self-exiles… and even there, his troubled emotions keep him from being fully initiated.

    Finally, Stray, denied all refuge and spurred onward by Edzie, is forced to travel across the continent in search of some trace of his father, hoping to come to terms so he can find a life that suits him.

    • Really interested in the flip between your world and the one we’re inhabiting. I’m curious- what does Stray leaving do to Edzie? Is her unhealthy driving force because she can only relate to him, is unable to do things without him? How does he feel about this?

  • Mike Renton is an artist, a Star Wars fanboy and a recovering heroine addict. He’s been clean for almost a year now, but hasn’t found the strength to pick up his pencil and sketch pad since he entered rehab. To keep himself out of trouble, he picked up a construction gig with his cousin William. Like a shadow, Mike drifts between work and home, fighting off the ghost of his old addiction with every step while his easel and brushes collect dust.

    Everything changes on the night of his mother’s accident. Not only is Mike back on the smack, but he’s fallen in love with Shannon O’Hara, a young shape-shifting shamaness with a lupine bent and more than a few carcasses in her closet. Mike knows she’s trouble. He knows he needs serious help. Tensions in his family are oil-thick and he owes a dangerous person a whole lotta cash. But finally, the ink is flowing freely and he’s producing the best work of his life.

    • Sounds very interesting. Characters who are aware of their own weaknesses can create all kinds of great obsessive compulsive behaviors for protection. I’m not sure what a lupine “bent” is but I’m sure it will be fascinating to find out. I have to admit I was surprised to see Shannon’s description because I thought the story was realism until you described her. Are these literal or metaphorical “carcasses” in her closet? How old is Mike? I’m guessing mid 30s. He needs to be old enough that he’s had plenty of time to screw up his life in a deep and ugly way, and also feels the pressure to get his life together that doesn’t really hit a person before 35. Great tension described here.

  • My MC is Suki, a Japanese American teenager interred at Tule Lake, California during WWII. Suki has been raised as a patriotic American, but internment makes her jaded. At the beginning of the book, she is determined, like her mother, to be optimistic and show how patriotic she is. But as time goes on, the government continues to put restrictions on the internees, first requiring them to sign loyalty questionnaires, then segregating the disloyal to Tule Lake, then shutting down her school there, then putting her father and brother in the stockade. The list seems endless, as does the boredom and the hopelessness. She wants to be free, obviously. She wants to go to school, to grow up, and follow the plans she had been making for herself. Now she is pressured to start acting more Japanese, and to learn how to live like a Japanese girl. Then she falls in love, with a girl, and struggles to keep that secret while living in a place where there is no privacy. As the book progresses, she becomes more and more reactionary, allowing herself to be swept up with the hysteria of the place, and when the war ends, she travels with her grandfather back to his homeland of Japan, thinking that she will be more accepted there.

    • Who’s pressuring Suki to act more Japanese? Fellow stockade inmates? Her father?

      “she falls in love, with a girl” An interesting twist to an already oppressive situation for Suki. In an America freshly feeling the pain of Pearl Harbor, her life must be hell while the war is on, and no doubt still so after its end. It would be interesting to find out if indeed she’s accepted by others in Japan.

  • This is from my current dystopian sci-fi w-i-p:

    When S12-23 wakes up in a mysterious underground medical complex, with no memory of her previous existence, her first goal is to find out who she was before she ended up there.

    It turns out she was an Enforcer; the cyborg recruit of a drone army controlled by Alpha-1, the corrupt and powerful organisation now running what was once New York State. Feared and hated in equal measure, an Enforcer’s job is to quash all rebellions against The System and eliminate the perpetrators, using any means necessary. But she didn’t sign up by choice. No Enforcer does. There’s only one way to join the ranks, and that’s to die as a forgotten and unmourned statistic from one of the city’s Ghetto Zones.

    And when you used to be a cheapside prostitute in the red light district, no-one gives a damn when you’re murdered by one of your own johns. You’re just one of several varieties of rats in a perpetually-multiplying population. And that’s what S12 was before her corpse was scraped off the floor of a dirty alleyway and sent to Alpha-1 to be cybernetically reaminated. And then sent back, to crush the same sector of society she was once a part of…

    Until she and two others like her are ‘rescued’ by members of the Liberty Base – the secret medical complex they find themselves in now. The doctors say they’re going to ‘rehabilitate’ them… but what does that mean? What does the Liberty Base want them for? No-one will answer their questions, which makes it hard to know who to trust. Are they really any safer here than they were out there?

    With the future uncertain, S12 needs to make peace with everything she’s been in the past before she can decide who she wants to be now.

    • I like the background but then I love Windup Girl. The really defining factor, to me, is the character’s voice and the narrator’s voice. Can I like this former sex worker current enforcer because of who she is? Can I relate to her in some way? (Does she like cats, is she loyal to her friends, is she just an average person who’s trying to make ends meet?)
      Can I relate to her hero’s journey in some way?
      Does she have a “puppy moment”? You know, 15 minutes into a movie, a character will do something like pet a dog to show the audience that we’re supposed to like this person even if they’re a flawed character.

      • Thanks Dark Matter. And in answer to your questions, I’d like to think so. I certainly hope so. 🙂

        S12 is the narrator/POV character, so she tells her own story as it unfolds. She’s a loyal, sympathetic and non-judgemental friend who will stand up for the underdog (and does at various points in the story) even if that means being the only one to do so. This is probably because she relates to them, and strongly believes the world should be a fairer place for EVERYONE, not just the rich and powerful minority who live privileged, protected lives under the regime of Alpha-1.

        With almost all of her memory gone, possibly forever (a side-effect of the Enforcer conversion process) she essentially starts from zero – a blank slate. At first she has no idea who or what she previously was, but even when she tries to imagine she hopes she was at least a ‘nice’ person. When the information she subsequently uncovers falls way short of that dream she is horrified, and even learning that Enforcers are no more than a mindless drones, performing their duties with muted self-awareness, is no comfort to her. Her struggle to forgive herself for what she may have done in her past, and not allow herself to be defined by the prejudices of others – both as an Enforcer and a sex worker from the ghetto – are two of the main themes within the story.

        She also suffers from PTSD as a result of her experiences; while most of her memory has gone, the few fragments that remain come in the form of a recurring nightmare depicting her death, and jumbled flashbacks when she finds herself in situations that most likely mirror other situations from her sex worker past.

        Good luck with your story – and especially Violet. She’s gonna rock, I just know it ::)

        • Thanks 🙂

          I’m concerned about why she’s horrified at her past. I mean, I’ve gone hungry instead of resorting to things like sex work but it’s a valid choice (and better than mugging someone). It’s society’s mores that instil prejudice against “the oldest profession” (and possibly fear of disease? But it’s socially acceptable for guys to screw around so… is it about money-for-sex? Or policing women’s sexuality?) So, if S12 has been mostly brain-wiped, why is she so judgemental about what may have been her only choice of honest employment?

  • Lingli Tabaan is a teenage orphan whose strange appearance and inability to stand sunlight make people fear her. She is so pale and delicate it feels as though one can see through her skin. Her hair is white. Her gray eyes are like sleeping lakes in winter. Friendless, Lingli’s world is limited to the homestead where she lives with her guardian who is a giant and Sid, a boy the giant has also raised. Lingli considers Sid her younger brother. She bosses over Sid and is jealous of his outgoing personality, but she also loves him and is committed to his care, acting like his mother as much as an older sister.

    Sid leaves to join the service of a powerful queen and their guardian is killed. Lingli is terrified of being alone but she is resourceful and begins a journey to the queen’s realm. Life becomes even more difficult for her after she and Sid are reunited. She is pressed into service in the palace, and Sid shows no eagerness to cooperate with her plans to create a new home together. The queen takes every opportunity to humiliate Lingli, and Sid is embarrassed by her. When the Queen announces that Sid is her son and heir, he thinks his dreams are coming true but he is threatened both by traitors in the palace and by his uncle, the prince of another realm who is betrothed to the queen. Lingli must decide whether she will stay where she’s not wanted in order to help Sid or try to find her own way in the world, but before she can find a way to leave the palace she’s implicated in the murder of a noble.

    Because her skills as a seamstress are in great demand in the palace, and a royal wedding is pending, her execution is postponed. Lingli tries to discover who committed the murder. The sorrow and frustration that Lingli has long carried hidden within her is turning into anger. She fights with Sid and begins to relish the fear she can instill in others.

    • Ugh, my heart hurts for Lingli. I’m irritated that Sid is treating her so badly. Is there are a character that offers her any type of support/belonging? Does she have any friends at the palace to help her put things in perspective or keep her head on straight? I like the complexity of the plot, all the different angles for danger, and the nontraditional MC. I’d love to hear more.

      • Thanks for your encouragement. Yes, Lingli makes her first friend on the journey to the palace but she is part of a family of nomadic traders so she is out of Lingli’s life after our MC gets to the palace until the last section of the story. There is one noble in the palace who makes the effort to surreptitiously encourage her and who protects her after she is accused of the murder. The palace cook also is kind to her. I should also clarify that even though Sid can be a real ass, they do have a strong bond. Still, most of the time this girl is on her own.

  • The protagonist from my WIP is Vincent Costello. A young addict refusing to accept what his life has become, that includes the constant nightmares of his dysfunctional parents and a circle of friends that contemplate murder. He is arrogant, self centred and a thrill seeker, like most twenty two year olds. He is chasing an early death be that from an obsession with fighting, drug use or just general recklessness. And he hasn’t even began to understand the ominous letters telling him to kill strangers…….

  • Sean Logan had a family once. Parents. An older brother and a younger brother. An older sister and a younger sister. He was a good kid, with a place to sleep and people who cared whether or not he had shoes on his feet.

    Until he didn’t. Three years ago, by the time he was fourteen, Sean’s parents had died and left the five siblings alone on the streets. Cole, the oldest brother, the anchor of the family, was selected by the Eastern Collaboration Strategical Academy for his perfect school grades to become one of the dictatorship’s mindless soldiers. He was taken in the middle of the night to be sent to the Academy, and two weeks later word was out that he had died at the Academy. Sean watched his sisters die of fever and his little brother get shot and killed by a drunkard, all within a few months. A school dropout due to intense dyslexia, bipolar disorder and anger management problems, Sean makes his own way by breaking digital codes with stolen second-hand software.

    But on the three-year anniversary of Cole’s recruitment for the Academy, Sean enters a false set of test scores into the Collaboration’s system and is brought to be trained, just as his brother had been. He enters the Academy to find answers and to prove to himself, if to nobody else, that the past does not have the power to dictate the future.

    But Sean is on his own. The things Cole had taught him about controlling his behavioral and learning problems begin to fade away and Sean is left to fight his way out of a situation much bigger than he is. Lies he had been told begin to fall away and, through the revealing of unexpected truths, he has to find a way to survive the one person who has the power to destroy him: himself.

    • I love the contrast between Sean and his brother, and his back story/challenges draw me right in. I’m interested in the Academy, and for some reason it really thrills me that he sneaks in and brings this sharper element into such a calculated, prestigious place. Does any part of being in the Academy appeal to him, making him want to continue the charade instead of just getting in to find answers? Does he start to find a sense of belonging? If not at the Academy, then where?

  • Meet Lily Emerald Peters. She’s seventeen going on eighteen, living with her ma in the main research station of Altaris (this world’s Antarctica). She’s a dreamer with a keenly perceptive nature and is a bit of a loner, being one of the few young people living on the base year-round.
    Her constant companion is her dog, Snowcone. She has a plan for where her future should lead, even if she dreams of impossible things.
    But the impossible is flipped on its head when she runs – almost literally – into a young Guardian, then meets his teacher. She discovers that she, like others, has Affinity. When *that* is so strong as to rip the teacher’s Shadow Implants off his head and onto hers, she discovers she can be a Guardian, too.
    But it’s not as easy as all that.

  • This is from a current WIP titled Forge. Have a wee bit of setting and at the end, a wee bit of plot if it interests. I had a hard time shutting up about her. Any thoughts are appreciated, I live with her and two others in my head space so fresh perspectives can only help!

    A little of the setting: It’s our future, but not on the order of centuries- just decades. Hard-copies of items are still practical in many ways, but soft-copies have turned into a kind of default format for certain items. Couple that with legislation and regulations cropping up at varying governmental levels that may regulate printed materials impacting availability of books, magazines, journals , etc. in conjunction with Green Initiatives. Librarians have evolved to being a cross of research analysts meets archivists.

    My MC is Diandra Mikner and her world is about to expand on the order of an exploding star. It’s likely she’ll be sorry she ever pushed for answers. Momentarily. Plus fifteen minutes.

    She accepted an offer to archive the Setanon Collection, an offer made due to her Graduate’s Final Project at UAlbany where she created a digital reproduction of a Divine Comedy manuscript dated from 1330. Her technique is not unlike some classically trained artists that took those skills and brought them to tablets in today’s age. She is following slightly in her mother’s footsteps (she’s a Librarian). She has a strong pull to the preservation of history, notably recorded history and a nostalgic affection for books- this is largely due to the fact that she has found solace in so many while seeking answers. The Setanon gig is the first time in a long while she’s felt a renewed sense of vitality. The collection has many early reproductions, editions, and other historical records. It terrifies her that she may be the closest she’s ever been to some answers and energized all in the same digital stoke.

    Where you might extend your hand in a courteous gesture, all she sees is the advent of knowing about the things you hope to be absolved for the most. She can see your sin, or more accurately, what -you- believe is a sin. As time has progressed, she can’t help but feel that what she can do, is doing what people do- grow. The other theory is it’s on the fritz. Either prospect scares her because there’s gut instincts, there’s intuition, and then there’s knowing there are two body parts in the concrete of the basement in Crafte Hall because the bone grinder broke down at the crematorium on Oakes and you’re sorry you left it that way- bad form Peter. She’s getting a hollowing in her gut that physical contact is becoming less and less of a requirement for this ability to activate. She’s seen the movies/TV shows, read the books. She’s not too dismissive about unwanted attentions lest she end up an object of study.

    World weary, she comes off as a realist though many will say she is a cynic/pessimist. Underneath she does foster hope, which gives her moments of pause. Sometimes she wonders if its obsessive, forging ahead, hoping that she just hadn’t found the right record that would illuminate her situation. Should she just chuck it all and find a way to stay under a radar? Seeing the dark depths of even the most upstanding person weighs on her. The increasing rate that she feels immersed in these events also had her wondering is that her memory, or someone else’s? Does it make it hers after? She finds herself constantly revisiting what she would do in the same situation and sometimes she’s uncertain what her answers make her.

    She is methodical to a point (and oft ‘diagnosed’ by colleagues/friends as slightly obsessive-compulsive), her savvy is mostly attributed to life experiences augmented by the ‘borrowed’ experiences she has. She is an able learner, more so if the subject interests her- intelligence wise she presents as an able linker (data analysis) and her common sense is uncannily in balance with this. As time goes on, she is surprised by how she adapts to her situation as it grows precarious. On top of that, she is also learns the depths of her loyalty to her family. And each lie she tells them feels like it carves a sliver off her soul.

    Bit o’plot: The thing about a person’s white whale is that its search isn’t without hazard, nor is it insular. As she reads the wizened tomes she’s to reproduce and archive, she begins to suspect her search isn’t hers alone. And yet, for nearly two decades she hadn’t been given an inkling she was anything but a lone figure trying to piece together her puzzle. The word sin has a storied and stymied history, so it’s not surprising that readily available texts haven’t proffered much. Rarer bindings, records ostracized because they didn’t fit a doctrine…now those…those may give her back a notion of it all being worth it.

    But what of the cost?

    Those closest to her heart are in the dark, having allowed them to think she has one hell of a gut instinct for character and seeing through people’s best facade. Digging through anything that hinted at a theory was always a tenuous task, never knowing to what extent she herself could weave truth and fiction for her queries. Eventually something of note is unearthed. And sometimes they are the things others would have preferred you not know. Twenty years into her own research, Diandra suddenly finds herself in the middle of a dangerous quest- made all the more real when she narrowly escapes an attempt on her life. As she gains answers, she also gains more questions. The most beguiling? That there’s been numerous attempts on her life and until that moment, they’d been successful. Myths, legends, beliefs, and folklore collide as she pursues not only a resolution to her own deepening mystery, but the means to survive long enough to obtain it.

  • I’m working on a duo.

    Luana is a former Witch who lost her magical gifts after her latent Werewolf powers began to manifest in her late teens.

    Ruby is a Witch and childhood bestfriend of Luana. She is a former member of the Witch Council.

    On the run from the governing bodies of both the Witches and Werewolves. Together they hunt demons, ghosts, and everything that goes bump in the night in an effort to try and clear Luana’s name after she opened a hellgate, nearly destroying the world.

    Or something like that.

    • What are the age ranges like? The are the two characters about the same age?

      What did Luana’s Witch powers mean to her, and what does being a Werewolf mean?

      What’s the relationship between “the Witches” and “the Werewolves” in general? Do they get on? Are they archenemies?

      • What are the age ranges like?

        This is kind of interesting. Same age childhood best friends but when the story starts they are 5-10 years apart in age difference (because backstory!).

        What did Luana’s Witch powers mean to her, and what does being a Werewolf mean?

        Luana was in line to be a council witch (it’s a birth thing) but when her heritage was revealed and she lost her powers it took her out of qualification. Ruby married her cousin and she got Luana’s seat on the all Women council.

        What’s the relationship between “the Witches” and “the Werewolves” in general?

        They hate each other.

        My Werewolves are modeled after the Livonian Werewolf. They believe their gifts are from god. They operate as a secret police out of the Vatican but many werewolves were turning away from the church. Some wolves became tolerant and stopped viewing everything as heretics that needed to be killed. Until Luana opened the hellgate (of course) and there are some that are more fanatical now.

        Basically, the Werewolves believe they were put on the Earth to protect humans so anything not human they don’t like.

        The Witches are governed by a council of 13 and there are small settlements of Witches throughout the world. Again, before the hellgate, many were turning away from the council and leaving their witch ancestry behind and live among humans but that started to change once the hellgate was opened.

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